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91st Giro d'Italia - GT
Italy, May 10-June 1, 2008
By Gregor Brown in Milano, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney, European Editor
The 2008 Giro d'Italia will be noted for its number of time trials – four – as it ends and begins with timed tests. Today at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi – on the first evening of December – RCS Sport unveiled next year's Italian Grand Tour, which starts in Palermo on May 10 and ends in Milano on June 1, and totals 3423.8 kilometres.
Race directeur Angelo Zomegnan spoke highly of his race, and its commitment to providing excitement while keeping the action clean. "The situation of the Giro is good. Thanks to you [the audience gathered at Arcimboldi - ed.], the spectators watching on television and the spectators that line the road," said the Italian from Erba.
Tour de France and Vuelta a España representatives were on hand to support his Italian counterpart when he spoke clarity in the sport that has been often betrayed poorly in the general press. "We want the teams and riders to consider transparency important, for cycling and the Giro d'Italia. ... I would like that the 2008 Giro d'Italia be one of creditably, quality, and one that shines on the international stage."
Alessandra Di Stefano of RAI television asked Tour De France boss Patrice Clerc about the absence of International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid, who was also not at the French presentation. He explained, "I am happy to be here in Milano today with the other Grand Tour organizers. Don't confuse the fact that the UCI is just the international federation for cycling, and we can still work with the national federations.
"The UCI has tried to put in place a system [the ProTour - ed.]. We are now working directly with national federations; we see that there is still so much enthusiasm that exists in Italy and other countries like France, Spain and Belgium. We have 15 million people at the Tour de France, seven million people at the Giro d'Italia and so we are just continuing to work with our friends in Italy and Spain to organize great races."
Time trials to test the legs
Unlike the 2008 Tour de France that was unveiled in October and has notably less time trial kilometres than recent years, there are 73.3 kilometres of the discipline that will appear in the 91st edition of the Corsa Rosa. Four time trials in total, one to start and end the race: A Palermo team time trial of 28.5km (stage 1), Pesaro to Urbino TT of 36km (10), a mountain TT to Plan de Corones of 13.8km (16) and a TT to the city renowned for fashion, Milano, on the last day of 23.5km (21). The Giro included a timed mountain test this year to the Santuario Di Oropa, but it has not seen an individual time trail on the final day in some years.
2007 winner Danilo Di Luca declared that "The 2008 Giro d'Italia has a tough course with more time trials and more climbing; all of that should be good for me and the way it looks, this Giro may be decided in the final time trial to Milano."
The parcours will see the riders start from the Southern island of Italy. "We are touching all the regions of Italy – combined with last year. Last year, we started on the island of Sardegna and this year Sicily." There will be three stages on the island: the first team time trial, a stage south from Cefalù to Agrigento and the first day for the sprinters, 208 kilometres to Milazzo.
The trip up Italy's mainland starts from the toe, working its way towards Peschici, where Franco Pellizotti won in 2006. This year the race will not use the 'light' mountain arrival but the Circuito del Gargano. Crossing the Apennine, from east to west, will be felt in stage 7. The riders are slated for a 179-kilometre romp that will be highlighted by the final 22 kilometres that features a 9.2-kilometre rise and the final 2.85-kilometre kick to Pescocostanzo. The trip to the western shores and the Mar Tirreno will be complete with a sprinters' fest, north, from Civitavecchia to San Vincenzo.
The land of Marco Pantani will be visited for three days. Following the Giro's first rest day in Pesaro, there will an individual time trial run on Tuesday, May 20, to Urbino, and a mountainous run to the hometown of the late and gifted climber, Cesana.
The high mountains
Starting with stage 14, the high mountain passes will make their impression felt. This year there are three mountaintop road stage finishes to test the legs of the non-climbers and allow the lightweight me to shine. The Giro will take in the stage finish of Alpe di Pampeago (Val di Fiemme) on Saturday, stage 14, Passo Fedaia (Marmolada) on the following day, stage 15, and two days before the race ends, stage 19, to Monte Pora.
Stage 14 will be a brute with the 23.45-kilometre Passo Manghen and the arrival on Pampeago, but Sunday's run will be a butchers' fest. Stage 15 takes in six serious climbs, including the 11.8 Passo di San Pellegrino, the 9.8-kilometre Passo Giau and the finale, 13.35 kilometres up the Passo Fedaia. The legs will be left wobbly and weak for the following day's individual test to Plan de Corones. The climb (1080 metres of climbing) was cut short at the Passo di Furcia due to snow the last time the organisers tried to included it in 2006. This year the riders will once again get a chance to face the closing 5.25 kilometres of sterrato ('gravel road') and the stiff sections (touching 24%).
Following rest day number two, a stage into Switzerland's Locarno will mark the Giro's only excursion outside of its home country. The following day will pay tribute to the upcoming World Championships in Varese, with a stage finish in the same city.
The mountains will appear in earnest one last time on May 30 and 31. The Giro will arrive on Monte Pora for the first time in its history. The climb is 'only' 6.35 kilometres long but comes on the heels of the Passo della Presolana. The next day, the Giro's penultimate day, should offer one last chance for the mountain men to change the overall classification. The 224-kilometre run will cover the Passo Gavia, the super-steep Passo del Mortirolo and the infamous Aprica before arriving in Tirano.
2004 Giro winner, Damiano Cunego, who may not ride the 2008 edition, was clear about the race. "It will certainly be a very difficult Giro next year, with more time trials and plenty of climbing," he stated.
The race will be held in suspense until the final day. Unlike the parade lap for the overall winner that is usually held, the Corsa Rosa concludes with the time trial on Corsa Venezia in Milano.
"The 2008 Giro d'Italia will really be a tour of Italy, from north to south, starting in Sicily and going through almost all the regions of Italy," said Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi. "I was born in a region [Emilia-Romagna] where we are cyclists, and I have been riding since I was a youngster! So I think it's smart to start in Sicily even if most of the riders are in the centre and north of Italy.
"I hope that this Giro will ignite the fantasy of the youngsters, because we need kids who become excited about cycling. These days, many riders start riding at 35 or 40, so we need to bring fresh riders into the sport. I hope this Giro can do that."
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Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti